Bourne school officials are hard at work trying to find a way to make graduation special for the Class of 2020.
The most recent idea is a hybrid between a traditional ceremony and one that would comply with current guidelines around social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. This plan would keep the date of graduation as Saturday, June 6.
Bourne High School Principal Amy Cetner presented the plan at the school committee meeting on Wednesday, April 29.
If the school board approves the plan, much of the ceremony would take place within the cars of the graduates. However, the administration has put a lot of effort into designing a ceremony that is more personal than a drive-through diploma hand-off.
Ms. Cetner said the day would start with graduates, in full cap and gown, and their families lining up in the school parking lot in their cars. Up to two cars would be allowed per graduate to accommodate the fact that some students have immediate family members that are split between two homes. The middle school parking lot can also be used to ensure that there is enough room for all of the vehicles, she said.
The students who are slated to give speeches would be able to exit their cars one at a time and stand at a sanitized podium to deliver those addresses. The speeches would be streamed live so that the graduates can watch in their cars. (Anyone in the community would also be able to watch.) Those students would then be escorted to the “B” rock and garden bed near the athletics entrance for a formal portrait before getting into a vehicular line to begin a processional.
Graduates would then drive through the parking lot toward the garden bed, where they would be able to exit their cars and be handed their diploma by a gloved teacher or administrator. Their immediate family members would also be able to exit their cars to take pictures before getting back into their cars.
Once in their cars, the plan would be to drive a set route through all of the villages in town so that the town as a whole can celebrate the graduates. Members of the community, as well as friends and family members who were unable to be at the school, would be able to line the route with signs to see the graduates as they drive past.
Ms. Cetner said this plan has been discussed with Health Agent Terri Guarino and the Bourne Police Department, and has been approved.
There are fine details that would still need to be worked out if this plan were to get the approval of the school board.
Superintendent Kerri Anne Quinlan-Zhou said that as much as the district would love to have a traditional ceremony on the football field, there is a sense among area superintendents that even ceremonies that are postponed until the end of the summer might not happen. Additionally, postponing the date of graduation could have an impact on the students who are entering the military or colleges that begin in August, as well as those students who plan to enter careers and require proof of high school completion to start.
Board member Maureen Fuller asked how long the ceremony would take, especially given that the students would all be in cars. Dr. Zhou said the traditional ceremony takes about one hour and she expects that this one would, too. She said the processional would begin as soon as students began receiving their diplomas. as opposed to all of the students receiving their diplomas before the processional starts.
The idea has been discussed with student leaders in the senior class, including members of the student council and the National Honor Society. However, the board, as well as members of the community, asked that the district ask all members of the senior class their opinion of the proposal.
Vice chairman Mitchell McClain said he would prefer to see graduation on the football field in some capacity, possibly later in June, even if graduates were spaced six feet apart. He wondered if putting it off a few weeks past the June 6 date would have the possibility of looser social distancing restrictions.
Dr. Zhou said that in all likelihood, any ceremony held on the football field this year would be one in which no one could attend, which would mean that parents would not be able to be at their child’s graduation.
She said other districts on Cape Cod have already opted for the virtual ceremony, which Bourne decided was not personal enough.
The idea was not voted on, though Dr. Zhou said that if this were to happen as proposed, a decision would need to be made by the meeting on Wednesday, May 13, so that the town has time to plan for the traffic impacts of the processional.